Posted in Perspectives

Story Time: Organs

 

We had a talk on organ donation earlier this week and it brought up a few very unexpected feelings in me.

I’ve always thought about becoming an organ donor or donating my body to science. After all, I won’t have any use for it once I’m dead. However, when the conversation turned to which organs one could donate, my resolve became a little shaky. I had no problem with the standard things like the heart, liver and kidneys, but then the donation of tissues came up. This includes things like skin, bone and eyes. It wasn’t until they mentioned eyes that I realised just how attached I was to my body – this shell that houses a soul.

I processed this within a few minutes, figuring I might as well let them take as much as they can. Who knows what sort of good they’ll be able to do. Whatever remains after that can be cremated.

Then, a jolt ran through me. Suddenly, it seemed so sad that after having endured so much, this skin-and-bone would be reduced to nothing more than ash.

It was a confrontation with death that I’d not had since my early teens. I’d forgotten how inevitable and final death is…

This confrontation gave me a lot to think about. Mostly, I’m thinking about how the decisions I make now will define me because not a single one of us knows how long we’ll be around. We have to be living a life we can be proud of right now. I’m not. But, I’m going to work myself to the bone to get there or else my life will mean little more than scattered ash.

Posted in Perspectives

A work in progress

I was going to write a short story tonight and put it up for you all since I haven’t done that in a while. There’s this concept I’ve been fiddling with for a while, but I didn’t really know where I wanted to go with it until this morning in one of my lectures. We were watching a video on spine immobilisation and suddenly, I had this incredible brainstorm (completely unrelated to spines or immobilisation).

I had the draft done within ten minutes. But, now I’m sitting here and the words won’t fit together on my screen as well as they did in my head. I wouldn’t call this writer’s block. The ideas are there. It’s just that every time I try to shape them into the story I envisioned in my head, I get this sort of twisting sensation in my chest.

I guess we all have days like this where we know exactly what we want to do, but when it comes to the execution, we freeze up. It can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint why we feel this way, but today, I make no excuses. I’ve been writing about confidence so often, but here I am, still afraid of putting myself out there – still afraid of making mistakes.

I’m not sure what I expected. Maybe that some switch would flip and undo the damage caused by years of self-doubt. People can say the most terrible things about you, but no one can hurt you as much as you can hurt yourself. I guess learning to love yourself, with all your flaws and mistakes takes more time than I reckoned.

This must be what it means to be a work in progress.

Posted in Perspectives

I’m Tired of Giving Up

Last week, I told my mother I was struggling with my mental health. She asked if school was too tough. I told her it was, but that there was more to it. Then, she asked if I wanted to quit med school.

For a moment, I sat dumbfounded.  The thought had run through my mind on many occasions and for the week preceding this conversation, I’d been telling my friends that I wanted to leave. However, when asked the question, my immediate and visceral response was no.

I sank down into my bed and thought about it. I knew why I’d wanted to leave. The toxic competitive environment and long hours that prevented me from pursuing my other interests were reason enough, but I never thought about why I’d want to stay.

Obviously, there must have been a really good reason. I’d responded so automatically. Sure, there were financial and logistical reasons, but I realised that, above all, I didn’t want to be seen as a quitter.

I have a habit of starting things and not seeing them through. It’s something I’ve always resented about myself. Two weeks ago I was even ready to quit blogging. But, I don’t want to be a quitter. Yes, giving up would disappoint the people who’ve been cheering me on (or the people who are expecting to gain from my success), but more than that, I don’t think I could live with the regret of not seeing this through. I’ve disappointed myself too many times before.

So, I’ll grind my teeth and look for a silver lining. Maybe I’ll rediscover a passion for medicine as time wears on or maybe I’ll find a way to make the time to do everything I love. All I know is I’m tired of giving up.

Posted in Perspectives

A Fish Out of Water

I am an oddball… and a certified nerd. A series of identity crises and extended periods of introspection have led me to a point in my life where I no longer care whether people think I’m strange. Well, at least right now I don’t care.

I think the reason you start caring in the first place is that when you have very niche interests, you tend to feel a bit isolated if there isn’t anyone around you who shares your interests. Loneliness has this amazing way of getting to try to fit in, even if that means you have to lock away the best parts of yourself.

I was feeling this way a few weeks ago – so ready to fully inhabit my skin, but feeling as if there was a glass wall separating me and everyone else. It seemed as if I had one of two options. Either I’d have to censor myself again in order to fit in or I’d have to deal with the loneliness and isolation. I didn’t like either of these options. To go through the painful process of growth and self-discovery and have nothing to show for it seemed inconceivable, but on the other hand, I was not ready to be alone.

While in the midst of this personal dilemma, I made plans to have friends over for dinner. It was set to be an unremarkable evening, with casual conversation and good food. And it did start out that way until I took a chance and brought up one of my niche interests (which I’ll hopefully be telling you more about in the next few weeks), only to discover that these friends shared the same interest. We spent hours talking about it and for the first time in a while, my heart didn’t feel as if it was sitting in my throat. I didn’t know that something as small as not feeling alone could have such a massive impact on my your life.

I still feel a little strange in my skin but sometimes it helps me to think that maybe there are people in my life I have more in common with than I think. I think a lot of people are still hiding. Sometimes all we need is a little nudge and a smile of encouragement to coax us out of our shells.

 

Posted in Perspectives

Confidence

I have never been a confident person. All my life I’ve shied away from people and lurked in the shadows of conversation. No matter where I was or who I was with, I always felt that even though people didn’t mind my presence, they could get along just fine without me.

In school, I only got noticed when I was performing really well academically. It was the only thing people knew about me. So, I built my identity around that. I built my confidence around it too, often forgetting that I had a lot more going for me. But, if that didn’t matter to other people, I didn’t think (at that time) that it should matter to me.

Then, in grade 11, I did something adventurous. I stepped out of my comfort zone and entered the school talent show. I’d never been alone on a stage before then. At least not that I can remember, and I was absolutely terrified at the concept.

I remember being on stage and in the middle of the song, I make eye contact with one of my classmates in the front row. Her expression was completely blank. All I could think about after that was how they all probably thought I was awful and weird and that they’d all be laughing and jeering at me at school the next day.

Well, they didn’t. Mostly, people didn’t care. I did care though. I projected all my insecurities onto them (and I hate to admit, still do).

Anyway, flash forward one year and I’m on that very same stage again – this time with a friend. I was really nervous during the weeks leading up to the performance because my singing partner was this really cool, popular guy and I was all but invisible. I was so intimidated, though I never admitted it. Would I measure up to him?

The fateful night passed in a blur – leaving us winning 3rd place. Winning anything at all was already a huge confidence boost for me but what really stuck with me was this: after we finished an acoustic rendition of pumped up kicks, I wanted to join the audience to watch another friend perform. As I stood by a little side door, looking for a place to sit, my then-crush ran up to me and said, “Wow, you really held your own up there.”

Those words meant so much to me. Not only because it came from someone I cared about but because it made me feel as if someone had finally seen behind all the wrapping paper I’d hidden in. His words were an acknowledgement that I was a person – more than the sum of the ideas and expectations others had projected onto me. I had done something I loved, not for the approval of others but for my own enjoyment, and it had paid off.

In the years that followed changing environments, people and circumstances had me crawling back into my shell. People will always choose the box with the pretty gift wrap over the brown cardboard box, even if the gifts are the same. People-pleasing became a hobby. But today, my crush’s words jumped out at me again, except, I’d like to modify them a bit. When people look at me, I want them to think, “Wow, she’s really holding her own out there [in the world].”

No more wrapping paper. Just me. Unashamed. I am more than the sum of the ideas and expectations of others.

I’m trying very hard to remember that. I am trying very hard to rediscover my voice and hold my own. If people will judge you no matter what, you might as well have fun with whatever it is you’re doing it and let the sceptics string along for the ride.

Posted in Perspectives

Direction

Hi, everyone. It’s been a while, I know. Exams seem to get in the way of everything, but they’re are finally over so everything should return to normal…

Only, I’m not really sure what normal is anymore. I’ve been antagonising over a lot of things lately. Mostly, I’ve been thinking about the type of person I want to be and whether the choices I’ve made have brought me any closer to becoming that person. So far, the answer is a resounding no. I’m at a point in my life where I’ve reached a crossroads and I’m not certain what to do or which way to go.

It’s the age-old dilemma of whether to choose head over heart.

Right now, I’m doing the smart thing, taking the conventional route to “success” (which if you translate it carefully, means money). I know that if I push through I’ll be able to live comfortably, have a stable job and be able to take care of my family who has sacrificed so much for me. Yet, I am filled with overwhelming unhappiness. The further I step down this road, the more colour drains out of the scenery. I am not happy.

Then, we have the impractical alternative. At this stage, it’s nothing more than a hazy dream and yet the prospect alone has my heart doing acrobatics. I want to be doing something I can pour my heart into. I want to remember what it’s like to feel passionate about something. The path towards this indistinct dream is definitely the more beautiful of the two, but it is also treacherous, uneven and disappears from view at times. It’s not safe. I’m used to playing it safe.

Still, I feel a sense of urgency growing. I feel that I’ll need to make a decision soon: head or heart.

…or time. Perhaps, what I really need is the time to explore both options. Unfortunately, time is something we all have precious little to spare these days.

But it’s okay. I’ll figure things out and be on the right track soon, I hope.

Posted in Perspectives

Why Do I Still Care?

The past few months have been deeply introspective. I learnt so much about myself it was terrifying. This whole time, there’s this person curled up in a ball at the back of my mind slowly wilting away. I’d wrapped myself up in so much pretence I think (for my family, for my classmates, for everyone really) that I ended up blocking out all the light. I let the most beatiful version of myself, the one without all the bells and whistles, crumble to pieces in the dark.  Slowly, I’ve wanted to bring her into the light.

But, my life is still static. A million things have changed inside me since the beginning of this journey, but on the outside, everything is exactly the same. Why? I so badly want the world to see through this veneer. I want them to meet the crumbling girl and maybe help mend her. Why am I still holding back then?

I hate it. I absolutely hate to admit that even though I keep saying that I don’t care what people think, it’s the one thing that’s holding me back. I am absolutely terrified of being judged. I wasn’t always. I don’t know when this fear began to consume me. And I don’t know when how to stop it from doing that.

I wish I knew how not to care. I wish I could be unapologetic. I wish. I wish. I wish.

I suppose now that I’ve completed this journey of self-discovery, I don’t get to rest. I need to embark on another. I need to learn how to care a little less about what other people think and care a little more about whether I’ll be able to live with myself if all I do with my life is try to live up to other people’s expectations.